Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Sharing a Moment

Oh my gosh! I am in the midst of “a moment.” And, in the absence of anyone here to share it with… well… isn’t that the domain of the blog? So, I push the STOP button on the VCR and interrupt the playback of the PBS fundraiser recorded as I slept last evening. A repeat of a reunion of “Do Wopp” musicians from the 60’s era is the focus of the program. And these singers and players are presenting their iconographic songs and performances. I am, admittedly, swept away in a tsunami of recollected emotions and feelings as I prepare and enjoy my breakfast to this background of heart stirring memories.

Then, just moments ago, Betty Everett (who has, sadly, passed away since the recording of this program) and Jerry Butler held hands (my favorite form of interpersonal intimacy) and sang “Let It Be Me.” And as they danced a waltz (my favorite form of dance expression) during an interlude in the melody, I danced with them… alone, here in my little 14X14 apartment… and repeated a poem that I wrote many years ago. I then stopped the tape and sat down to the computer to share this moment with you, My Dear Reader. Lest you ever wonder what lives in the most intimate and treasured corners of my Being, I offer these lines from “Let It Be Me” as just sung on this taped performance. And I offer to you (once again) that poem… “The Absence.” Thank you for the indulgence that you grant me by your investment of yourself in reading these.

Let It Be Me

“I bless the day I found you
I want to stay around you
And so I beg you
Let it be me

Don't take this heaven from one
If you must cling to someone
Now and forever
Let it be me”


He walks proudly, as the sovereign of beings,
parading confidence in his very presence.
Seemingly he needs none other than himself… the power exuded in his solitude and might bespeaks no requirement beyond his own strengths.

Yet, with him, each step of the way, is a powerful Absence;
just as real and tangible as any presence.
This Absence has form, size, dimension, breath, warmth, character, and being… and… in its existence, the Absence holds power and authority equal to all held by its host.

Indeed, he is but a fraction of what he is capable of being… with this Absence keeping pace with him… stride for stride.
While all of the necessary equipment is there for him to dominate, control, and enjoy his term as master… he is diluted in his ability to measure up to the illusion… the expectations… by the Absence that denies him the power that would be… in Her Presence.

Her Presence, in displacing the Absence, fills each void of need, desire, inspiration, motivation, fulfillment and joy that serve to energize him toward all that is expected of so grand a creature as he.
Her Presence, in displacing the Absence, makes of him all that the image of him proclaims… provides the substance to support the vision.

Her Presence… but, oh, such a void when it remains the Absence… waiting, hungering, echoing for the filling… when…


Revised: 25Apr2001
Revised: 10Aug2004

Let It Be Me (continued)

“Each time we meet love
I find complete love
Without your sweet love
What would life be

So never leave me lonely
Tell me you love me only
And that you'll always
Let it be me”

Again, I thank you for allowing me this sharing of purely self indulgent expression.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Life's Gift of Friendship

There can be no greater blessing in life than that of friends. I am so blessed! And, today, I have enjoyed the treat of sharing in the exchange of intimacies with two of my friends… which inspires me to share something of them with you, My Dear Reader. For, you see, I would that you be equally blessed in your life. So, please share, with me, in the joyful spirit of today’s contact with Friends.

First… I received a phone call from D, who called to let me know that he had forwarded some photos taken during a visit to Tampa’s zoo.

The love between D and his wife H is so exciting and refreshing that I can not confine its beauty to my own enjoyment… so I share it (in the form of two of their photos)… and the marvelous serenity and joy that is consistently Them.

Then, as I accessed the webb to look at the photos, I was delighted to see that I had a message from M.B. The gift of her sensitive and caring spirit is reflected in this excerpt from that message (which she stipulated was sent as “inspiration for your blog.”) In fact and truth… M.B. is inspiration for my blog! I give you that excerpted message.

I was visiting in southern Kentucky and discovered that a lady I had known as a child was in a local nursing home. She has had polio’s effects as long as I had known her (which would make her in her 70's now.) I found her in good spirits, gnarled up in her little bed. When I told her who I was she made an immediate connection and informed me that she had one of my CD's and had enjoyed my music. We talked for some time, as difficult as it was for her, before I realized she had a typewriter. when I asked if she types letters, she smilingly replied, "No, I write for the newspaper."

There! Isn’t the Creator of all that is this Life the very best of Givers of Gifts?! I bid you, Dear Friend, a most peacefully serene of moments… right now.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Miss You


I miss you in the morning, dear,
When all the world is new;
I know the world can bring no joy
Because it brings not you.
I miss the well-loved voice of you,
Your tender smile for me,
The charm of you, the joy of your
Unfailing sympathy.

The world is full of folks, it’s true,
But there was only one of you.

I miss you at the noontide, dear;
The crowded city street
Seems but a desert now, I walk
I solitude complete.
I miss your hand beside my own
The light touch of your hand,
The quick gleam in the eyes of you
So sure to understand.

The world is full of folks, it’s true,
But there was only one of you.

I miss you in the evening, dear,
When daylight fades away;
I miss the sheltering arms of you
To rest me from the day,
I try to think I see you yet
There where the firelight gleams…
Weary at last, I sleep, and still
I miss you in my dreams.

The world is full of folks, it’s true,
But there was only one of you.

IMAGES through the gracious courtesy of Jon Sullivan,

Friday, November 24, 2006

'Right Now' Living

It has taken a lot of living to begin to understand two precepts that govern my ability to relate to and appreciate life. First… no person is to be possessed. Second… no place is my destination. These two run contrary to all that the world would have me understand. What I have had presented to me is the concept that I should find “The One” who is to “be mine” for all of my life. And that I should make “a home” that is where I am to reside for all of my life. Both of these assumptions are in absolute contradiction to the natural dynamic of living. Neither of these beliefs give consideration to the realities of immaturity, growth, maturation, nor refined tastes (not to mention the infinite range of variables affecting the elements of life exterior to ourselves) that make for a changing Self.

Experience has taught me that each moment is temporary… and the elements of that moment are, likewise, temporary… and fleeting. Much effort is made and energy wasted in the attempt to cling to the vanishing vapor of life’s moments. Great amounts of pain and anguish is known in the lamenting of passed circumstances, material ‘stuff’, and relationships. The acceptance of every gift entrusted to us on our journey as something to be grateful for, in the context of that moment, is an art in living that is not spoken of. For, My Dear Friend, is not even the moment in which we are blessed with a gift, in and of itself? Should we not be saying, with each passing tick of our life’s clock, “Thank you Life, for the gift of this moment… with all of the circumstances and elements that it offers?” But we are encouraged… nay!… we are required (by the insistent pressures of all around us) to claim ownership of and declare exclusive rights to jobs, friends, homes, lovers, spouses, children, political affiliations, and on, and on. Yet… just one encounter with a debilitating disease brings us to the immediate recognition of the reality that… we neither own, nor control anything that we have so carefully inventoried and placed our label on. Even the next breath that we take… we do not take… it is GIVEN to us as a gift.

So, it is with a sense of urgency that I discipline myself to focus… really take measure of… every single minute detail of my life. Thereby giving myself the ability to humbly say “Thank You Life” for it all. And to each of you who are struggling with the frustrations, disappointments, pains, and anguish of seeking that permanent, perfect, absolute… ANYTHING… please, I implore you, step back… give thanks for (and let everyone involved know… by telling them… that you are thankful for) everyone and everything that is part of the moving, growing, evolving, and dynamic life that you are living. For then, My Sweet, exasperated, confused, and anxious Friend, you will be truly LIVING your life… as it is RIGHT NOW. And a succession of moments lived in this awareness all add up to Your Life well lived.

In the hope and with the abiding desire that these reflections will serve to benefit the very next step that you take, I remain (as always) Your Loving Friend and caring Servant.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Someone, not Anyone

“So, why do you want to be alone on this holiday?” I was asked. “Oh no… I do not want to be alone. I want very much to be with Someone. And if I was with Anyone, it would be a reminder that I am not with Someone.” I answered.

Now, as I reflect on that brief exchange, I consider that You too may want to be with Someone at this moment. But circumstance and the fruits of previous life choices have conspired to leave you alone... with a disinclination to be with Anyone. So, I write to let You know that you are not alone in your moment.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Thanksgiving Proclamation

A PARTNERSHIP OF VIRGINIA FOUNDATION FOR THE HUMANITIES, VIRGINIA TECH, AND UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA and for the edification of all who desire to know the best of the workings of the minds and spirits of the Fathers of what is best about these United States… I offer:

George Washington's Thanksgiving Proclamation of 1789

The first president of the United States also issued the first Thanksgiving Proclamation, on October 3, setting the celebration for November 26, the fourth Thursday in November that year.


Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor—and Whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me "to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness."

Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be—That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks—for his kind care and protection of the People of this country previous to their becoming a Nation—for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his providence, which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war—for the great degree of tranquillity, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed—for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted, for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us.

And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions—to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually—to render our national government a blessing to all the People, by constantly being a government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed—to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shewn kindness unto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord—To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and Us—and generally to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.

Given under my hand at the City of New York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789.


(And then:)

Abraham Lincoln's Thanksgiving Proclamation of 1863

The sixteenth president's proclamation of October 3, 1863 was actually his third; he had issued proclamations in April 1862 and August 1863. The reason the following is usually considered to be the first modern presidential proclamation of Thanksgiving is that with it began an unbroken string of such acts, always setting a late-November date for the celebration.


The year that is drawing toward its close has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added which are of so extraordinary a nature that they can not fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever-watchful providence of Almighty God.

In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign states to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere, except in the theater of military conflict, while that theater has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defense have not arrested the plow, the shuttle, or the ship; the ax has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege, and the battlefield, and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom.

No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.

It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently, and gratefully acknowledged, as with one heart and one voice, by the whole American people. I do therefore invite my fellow-citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next as a day of thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners, or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore if, as soon as may be consistent with the divine purpose, to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity, and union.

In testimony whereof I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.
Done at the city of Washington, this 3d day of October A.D. 1863, and of the Independence of the United States the eighty-eighth.


Tuesday, November 21, 2006

The Falling Leaves

While I glory in the infusion of all that the leaves of experience bring to this tree that is my earthly span of life… I also recognize the time for each experiential leaf to give way to that season of my life that spells its termination.

I have learned (through countless repetitions of the attempt) not to try to hang on to those leaves… but to celebrate their contribution to my pilgrimage by applauding the festive colours of their departure.

I gratefully offer my thanks to Life for the enhancements that each experiential leaf has brought to my development and accept the continued nourishment of my growth that inevitably comes from the slow composting of each leaf’s passing at the foundation of my Being.

For I recognize that from the midst of all that passes away…

there is the always fresh beauty of what is new and filled with promise.

Yes, My Dear Reader, Life does offer a lesson for our living of each and every element of our daily walk…

if we will but slow ourselves and invest the time... and focus on the marvels that surround us.

To that end, and for your benefit, bourne of my love of and care for you, I remain, as always, Your faithfully reminding Friend and Servant.

IMAGE (Child in leaves): Ian Scott/ BBC
IMAGES (all others): Ian Britton,

Saturday, November 18, 2006

The Greatest

"Whosoever humbles themselves, as this little child, is the greatest in all of heaven."

The Book Of MATTHEW chapter 18, verse 4

IMAGE: BBC Photo (Small child at prayers at Tehran University, Iran)

Friday, November 17, 2006

Different Stars

So, what makes it do difficult to bridge the gap of understanding, and communicate the values and desires of one’s Self. I suggest that one of the key difficulties is language. Oh yes!… we speak the same native tongue. But the dialect of our inner Person is far more often differing from that of the one with whom we desire understanding. I offer one word as example… wife. In my experience, I was to have a wife; her intent was to be a wife.

Now, in those short statements of intent lurk implied role expectations. I was (in “having a wife”) to take responsibility for… possess… ‘have’, as an appendage, a wife. In my unstated (to either myself or her) inner expectations, her status as "Wife" was a mere formality that gave social and religious license to our living together and enjoying life as Lovers. She was (through the lens of her perception) to be vested with certain power… authority… responsibility… rank and position…station suited to a matriarchal entity. I had no idea as to what she considered a "wife" to be…for I (in fact) had no desire to have a "wife", but (as previously stated) a lover. It was my mistaken belief that I would be marrying my Lover and romance would then be our ongoing daily experience in playful exuberance. (Are you getting the feeling here that I was in no way ready for marriage?) She, on the other hand, saw “wife” as a position of responsibility for the establishment of a well-appointed and socially inviting home. I now (thanks to an understanding of temperaments and personality styles) know that the happiness of my inner spirit is in romance while her happiness is to be found in structured and ordered roles in physical and social surroundings. But, at the time of our marriage… neither of had a clue as to these truths.

All of this… and we are only considering one word… one word that encompasses an enormous spectrum of life-determining definitions and perspectives… one word that sets the mood, the tone, the atmosphere for relationship, environment, and behavior in societies, cultures, communities, and laws of government throughout the world. This one word… wife… in our mental vocabulary is but a small installment in systems of functioning that shape lives around the globe. The way that the word ’wife’ is understood and responded to in every home of every community, of every country, on every continent determines the nature of entire cultures. So with the seemingly overwhelming scope of this one word multiplied by the many words that shape our thinking and our behavior… how would I dare suggest that we approach such a weighty subject as a “Life Vocabulary?”

It is my suggestion that we begin by honoring with respectful appreciation the importance and significance of our language, and carefully taking the first simple step of acknowledging, to each other, the accepted fact that, while we may all be using the same words… they can, and will mean something entirely different to each of us. And no definition is the “right” one at the expense of another being the “wrong” one. For, as alluded to earlier, our inherently understood definitions are determined by the blending of our inborn temperament type with the cultural norms of our respective societies molded by our individual familial standards.

But the core of our understanding is always founded by the silent but always-present personality as has been acknowledged by the notes of Hypocrites, Plato, and Aristotle through the more recent Jung and Myers. Our own individual values, motives, drives, desires, and inclinations are the most fundamental foundation for the formation of our Personal Life Vocabulary for it is the Inner Us that interprets the input of the exterior influences on our concepts of life. So it behooves us to insist that those with whom we wish to live in harmony take the time and make the effort to paint expansive pictures of what they mean by what they say… and that we LISTEN!

All of this having been said, it is absolutely natural… even predictable… that, in my marriage, my wife saw her role and my role as one set of expectations… while my hopes and desires were completely foreign to her. WE WERE NAVIGATING TO DIFFERENT STARS. That the “marriage” lasted for twenty years and was (compared to the surrounding norm) harmonious and functional (in the eyes of our children, family, and friends) is a testament to our combined commitment to that goal. It is my sincere hope and determined intention that the candid presentation of this subject be of benefit to you, My Dear Reader, in your own daily walk. For we are in this together… and you and I and Love can make that walk a more satisfying and pleasant experience. You just watch! You will see.


Mostyn's Garage (and Funeral Services)

There are some places, along life's way, that simply demand a stop and a chat. There is no conceivable way that I could pass by this establishment without meeting the proprietor. Here is someone with a diversity of talents that deserve one's attention.

I truly hope that you find the same refreshment of Spirit that I have enjoyed in whimsical contemplation of this image. Here's to Life!...and those who live it!

IMAGE through the gracious courtesy of Ian Britton,

Monday, November 13, 2006


When I first saw this image, I was moved by the dramatic power of the silhouetted tree in the foreground… then the one in the distance… then the stub of either a new tree or the remains of an old one in the far removed… then a similarity appeared to me. All of these trees have been influenced by the forces of a prevailing wind that, quite obviously, has made itself known to the scene for a long while.

My mind then went to the effects of influences on our lives that appear to those who look at us from all manner of perspectives, over spans of time, or in brief glimpses. Do we not reflect the shaping and molding influences of myriad contributors to our growth and development (the "winds of influence" on our lives)? I then began to wonder what Thinkers of the past have had to say about this matter of “Influence.”

So, My Dear Reader, I invite you to join me as we sit together under the darkening boughs of this demonstrative tree and consider the musings of some of Life’s notable individuals as they address the subject of the influences of:

Life’s Seasons
Live each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influences of each.
Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862)

When the conduct of men is designed to be influenced, persuasion, kind unassuming persuasion, should ever be adopted. It is an old and true maxim that 'a drop of honey catches more flies than a gallon of gall.' So with men. If you would win a man to your cause, first convince him that you are his sincere friend. Therein is a drop of honey that catches his heart, which, say what he will, is the great highroad to his reason, and which, once gained, you will find but little trouble in convincing him of the justice of your cause, if indeed that cause is really a good one.
Abraham Lincoln (1809 - 1865)

Each of Us All
Let no man imagine that he has no influence. Whoever he may be, and wherever he may be placed, the man who thinks becomes a light and a power.
Henry George (1839 - 1897)

One’s Parent
Nothing has a stronger influence psychologically on their environment and especially on their children than the unlived life of the parent.
Carl Jung (1875 - 1961)

One’s World
In Life, only a few persons influence the formation of our character; the multitude pass us by like a distant army. One friend, one teacher, one beloved, one club, one dining table, one work table are the means by which one's world and the spirit of one's world affect the individual.
Jean Paul Richter (1763 - 1825)

One’s Studies
Never regard study as a duty, but as the enviable opportunity to learn to know the liberating influence of beauty in the realm of the spirit for your own personal joy and to the profit of the community to which your later work belongs.
Albert Einstein (1879 - 1955)

A Teacher
A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops.
Henry Adams (1838 - 1918), The Education of Henry Adams

One’s Person on others
It takes tremendous discipline to control the influence, the power you have over other people's lives.
Clint Eastwood (1930 - )

The whimsy of a Community
In the late 19th century Evanston, Illinois, nicknamed "Heavenston" by Frances Willard, was a Methodist-minded town, so pious that the town fathers, resenting the dissipating influence of the soda fountain, passed an ordinance forbidding the sale of ice cream sodas on Sunday. Some ingenious confectioners, obeying the law, served ice cream with syrup but no soda. This soda-less soda was the Sunday soda, and became so popular that orders for "Sundays" crossed the counter everyday of the week. When objection was raised to christening the dish after the Sabbath, the spelling was changed to Sundae, and so developed one of America's most characteristic dishes.
William Lyon Phelps (1865-1943)

One’s Early Childhood Development
I believe there are few whose view of life has not been affected by the stern or kindly influences of their early childhood, which threw them in upon themselves in timidity and reserve, or drew them out in genial confidence and sympathy with their fellow creatures. Basil W. Maturin (1847-1915)

Inner Virtue
One ought to seek out virtue for its own sake, without being influenced by fear or hope, or by any external influence. Moreover, that in that does happiness consist.
Diogenes Laertius (fl. early 3rd Century)

All of these having been noted, please permit my reminder that nothing in our lives is without consequence. All that we do and all that we allow to be done makes a mark… creates an influence in the conscious or sub-conscious/ present or future awareness of any and all exposed to it. And, by the same measure, all that we allow to touch us in any area of our Being influences us in some way. Herein, we have the advantage over the tree. We all… each and every one of us… have some measure of control over what we give license to touch us. We bear responsibility for the influences accessing our thinking, our health, our behavior, and our Spirit. This is the gift that Life blesses us with… and the opportunity that resides in each election that we make in each moment of our lives. I humbly ask that you treasure and respect the precious quality of your Self as you choose the elements that are touching you today.

To the extent that I have presented you some fresh perspective on the influences on your life and the influences that your life is making , I offer you my very best of wishes and warmest of regards as I remain, Your loving Friend and constant Servant,


IMAGE through the gracious courtesy of Ian Britton,

Sunday, November 12, 2006

The Boat Houses of Encinitas

I saved this image quite some time ago… simply because it made me smile. I have enjoyed the pleasure that accompanies imagined scenarios attached to it each time I see it. I have envisioned all sorts of commentary and conversation by an endless supply of conjured characters encountering this far-out-of-the-ordinary pair of structures. The “Boat houses of Encinitas” have entertained me a great deal… but I finally had to find out the story behind their existence. And I share that story with you now.

It seems that there was a most frugal and creative individual incorporated in the person of one Mister Miles Minor Kellogg, of Encinitas, California. In the period encompassing the 1920’s and 1930’s Mister Kellogg was energetically involved in what is, in this twenty first century, popularly known as recycling. He had an acute eye for bargain-priced, pre-used materials that his skills as a versatile builder and enterprising businessman could transform into some new creation to satisfy an envisioned need. This was demonstrated when his hotel building became infested with bats. Mister Kellogg solved that problem by removing the top floor of the building. Then, with a supply of perfectly usable lumber liberated from the hotel, he set about constructing a silent movie theatre next door to that same hotel.

So it was not surprising that our Mister Kellogg saw the demolition of the Moonlight Beach Bathhouse in 1925, as the source of a fresh supply of right-priced building materials. But timbers used in the construction of the low-ceilinged bathhouse were not suited for use in a traditional building with requirements for higher ceilings. Mister Kellogg’s lingering interest in the sea coupled with his recollection the time spent working on low-ceilinged ships on Lake Michigan gave birth to inspiration. There you go then! The obvious destiny for the bathhouse lumber was a resurrection as a boat… or boats. Hence his creation (with the after-school assistance of his young son, Miles Justin Kellogg) of the SS Moonlight, and the SS Encinitas… or what we now know fondly as “The Boat Houses of Encinitas.” Both were “launched” with their sterns to, and a block away from, the sea in 1928 and are, to this day, the most photographed scene in the Encinitas area.

A lovely (and fun) example of what can be done with the materials that Life gives us.

IMAGE through the gracious courtesy of Jon Sullivan,

Friday, November 10, 2006

For This Is Wisdom

For this is wisdom; to love, to live,

To take what Fate, or the Gods, may give,

To ask no question, to make no prayer,

To kiss the lips and caress the hair,

Speed passion’s ebb as you greet its flow,…

To have,… to hold,… and,… in time,… let go!


aka: Adela Florence Cory Nicolson

09 April 1865 - 04 October 1904

IMAGES: SCENES through the gracious courtesy of Ian Britton,

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Life's Small Things

Communication is, perhaps, the most important game of all of the “Games of Life” that we all play. And it is a game that perplexes and befuddles most of us throughout our lifetimes. Yet, it need not be so. For there are some very simple and basic tools of understanding that will enable us to engage in the “communication game” with a satisfactory, if not enjoyable, level of competency. Today, I offer but one of those “tools” for your consideration. I will illustrate it with a vignette from my experience. Please read with patience… as I must explain the details that demonstrate the point.

We would invite guests to our home for an evening of dining and playing well known board games. One of everyone’s favorites was a game involving marbles and a round board. The idea of the game is to use the roll of the dice to generate numbers to be applied to the movement of one’s marbles from a starting point to a finishing point (home.) Each player has their own beginning point and ’home’ point. An exact number must be rolled to start each marble (each player has 5 or so marbles…as I recall) around the board… and an exact number must be rolled to move each marble from the circuit into the “home base.” Hence each player could expect to have one or more marbles waiting on the circuit for an exact number to allow entry into “home.” And those waiting marbles are vulnerable to another player’s passing marble’s landing on them while they were waiting. This would send the waiting marble all of the way back to the start point.

I tell you all of this so that you will have some understanding of why each player would have a degree of anxiety as they tried to roll the exact number to allow the entry of their marbles into home…and away from that place of vulnerability. Thusly, as the game reached its final minutes, the play would consist of all players having all of their marbles lined up at the entrance to their respective home points… no one going around the circuit (the circuit having been completed by all)… and each player, in turn, rolling the dice in the attempt to get the exact number required for entry to home. BORING!! Or so I decided.

I, therefore, chose to move my marbles right past my Home Place entry point, continue around the circuit, and land on each of the other players’ marbles waiting for entry to their respective home… thusly sending them, in turn, back to their start point. Oh My! The emotion that I stirred! You would think that I had committed some heinous crime. “You are not playing fair!” these grown adults would cry. “You are not following the rules” they would protest. Whereupon I would demonstrate, by reading the rules (an exercise guaranteed to try the patience of any but the most saintly of persons) that I was fully within the rules to opt to pass up my own opportunities to “win” the game in favor of spoiling others’ chances of winning.

The degree of fury is beyond what I can adequately convey in words here. So incensed would the others become that they banded together (without fail) in their genuine anger against me. This I took as an amusement for I was amazed that these supposedly rational people were putting the placement of a few marbles on a playing surface, above the tangible reality that we as a group of friends were “enjoying” an evening together. And I continually held the genuine belief that they would see the silliness of the moment and join me in a good laugh at ourselves (this NEVER happened.) I was disappointed in the values demonstrated by my friends… and they were disappointed in my obvious willingness to be so “mean-spirited” as to spoil the game for them all. Needless to say, the playing of that game was short-lived.

So what… My Dear Reader… was happening there that offers us some understanding of and means to improve our accomplishment of meaningful communication. Simply this… we are sharing our world with people whose basic and innate temperament and personalities differ from ours. We really do “see” the stuff of life differently. We all have the same “stuff” (circumstances, situations, data, events) presented to us. But we, by nature, PERCEIVE those elements in completely different ways. Those friends, with whom I played that game, were responding to their sense of “begin, play, win” as presented by the rules of the game. They were acting on their natural inclination to follow the CONCRETE structure of the exercise. They were part of the 78% majority of the population (Left-Brain-Dominant) of the world who see all of life’s “stuff” in very immediate, defined, and absolute terms.

What we were up against was my predisposition (by natural design) to look for the spatial, potential, conceptual possibilities (Right-Brain-Dominant) presented by the game. For me, this was just as legitimate and valid as their perceptions… and I couldn’t understand their refusal to recognize and even respect my perceptions. They interpreted my behavior as me being a total Jerk. And I interpreted their animosities as them being more interested in WINNING a game… than us PLAYING a game together. I saw their behavior as a rejection of our personal interaction. They saw my behavior as a refusal to be part of the community of players. None of us had a clue as to what the actual dynamics at play were. We had no basis of understanding necessary for successful communication.

You may say “That is such a small thing!” To which I would respond that our lives are made up of far more “small things” of daily life than relatively “large” things to be dealt with. I have intentionally chosen a seemingly insignificant life event to illustrate this communication conflict because it is in our mundane and routine interactions that we rehearse and reinforce our habits of thinking about and responding to all of the world around us. It is with repetition and practice that we establish our ways of living among each other. And it is my desire to offer what I consider to be the cornerstone of all successful communication… the absolute reality that we are living amongst folk who have, as their own natural gift, a perspective that may well differ from our own. This is a fact of our creation. It is a wonderful truth of the balance and harmony offered by Life.

So what to do? Simply… inquire! That’s it! Question and listen for indications as to how your interlocutor is perceiving the subject being dealt with… then accommodate their view of the matter by tailoring your presentation of your view in a way that compliments theirs. Determine the tone of their view… and harmonize with that tone. Though you may not understand… respect… their right to their view. In all of the seemingly small things practice this methodology… so that in the event of the larger things, you will be well rehearsed. I can offer no more valuable a treasure for your happy coexistence with your world than this. I present its simplicity… and its wealth as I remain, as always, Your constant Friend and willing Servant,


Monday, November 06, 2006

It Is Well

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way...

It is well, it is well, with my soul.

Text from the hymn It Is Well With My Soul, Horatio G. Spafford (1873)
IMAGE through the gracious courtesy of Ian Britton,

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Exchanged Unknowns

So there we stood… before the minister and in the company of friends and family… using the approved words and phrases to indicate to each other, and to all of those in attendance, our mutually agreed upon resolve to be to and for each other all that the mysteries of marriage secure. Now… if you find yourself, upon reading the preceding sentence, scratching your head in doubt as to “what did he just say?”… you have the smallest insight into how uncertain the whole “exchanging of vows” was for us then and still is for countless others today.

“I, John-Michael, take you…” “YOU?” How in the name of all that is even remotely reasonable did I ever conceive an idea of who she was? On what basis did I presume to know her perceptions of life? What were her yearnings? What did she most value being? What did the innermost Her seek for satisfaction? Above all else, what did she most prize? To what did she aspire? What element of life experience did she most trust?

Was I “taking HER” or was I accepting her as the personification of someone who had the likely potential to fill my set of unspecified and as-yet unknown expectations? And did she not stand there, next to me, equally ill-equipped to take “ ’til death do us part” vows. Were we not playing out an expected and socially-correct performance that (in the terms of the old Farmer’s vernacular) amounted to each of us buying a “pig in a poke” (sight unseen and unknown) with the hopeful fantasy that (by some magical means) would mysteriously blossom into some vaguely imagined state of blissful satisfaction?

“The spirit is the true self”
Cicero (MarcusTulliusCicero[106-43 BC])

Truth be told… we lied!… to ourselves, each other, and to all those in attendance. I did not… could not… take HER for I had not even the most remote clue as to who she was. And the same was true, in spades, for her. She saw me as the malleable raw material to be shaped, in my willingness and by her will, into her unspecified mold of expectations. And I fantasized that she would blossom into the satisfaction of all of my unspoken (and, indeed, unknown) desires. We were not married… we were signed on for a pressure-packed test drive and knew nothing whatsoever about either the vehicle or the course to be negotiated. And there are many reading this account right now who can relate… very intimately… to the situation. For the exceptions to this account are painfully few.

So… stepping back from the intensity of the illustration and folding our metaphorical hands in reflection… what makes it so difficult to bridge the gap of understanding and communicate those values and desires that indwell each of us? And, mind you, these miss-communicated and miss-understood arrangements are just as present in relationships entered into other than marriage. We all carry a set of expectations into social, political, and career relationships borne of our presentation of ourselves tailored to satisfy the expectations of whomever we are “selling” ourselves to. We take that job expecting that there will be satisfactions for us in its opportunities. And our employer accepts us with an unstated agenda that places unspecified expectations on us. This holds true of friendships and alliances of all sorts and description throughout our lives.

“This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.”

William Shakespeare(1564-1616)Hamlet(1601)

I am reminded of the last interview that I subjected myself to prior to my decision to exit the Financial Services industry. The interview was with a large international investment firm and I was speaking with their head of Human Resources. I remember distinctly his look of incredulity when I answered his questions relating to just who I was… what strengths I possessed and what weaknesses I was aware of. He had an obvious degree of doubt when I spoke with specificity to both ends of the spectrum of my abilities and informed me that a day spent with the firm’s psychologist would clarify and codify those issues with a workable degree of clarity. Upon my return, the following week, (and with the summarized reports from their in-house psychologist in hand) he showed absolute wonder and amazement as he declared his astonishment with the accuracy of my earlier description of that package that was Me. “I have, never before, known anyone who has known so well, and presented so candidly, a portrait of themselves in an interview.” he declared. And I acknowledged the fact that I had invested much time, effort, and expense in reaching a point where I could do just that. But I knew then, and know now that there are a very rare few who find the encouragement and support that I allowed myself in that quest.

Know thyself
Ascribed to: Plato, Pythagoras, and Socrates

But I tell you, My Dear Reader, of this so that you may know that… with certainty.. You can attain that level of comfort with, confidence in, and peace with just exactly who you too, are created to be… just as you are… no improvements, modifications, or reconstructions required. In the next installment of the development of this thought, I will explore, with you, some easy and attainable methods for easier, more comfortable, and more honest communication between yourself and your “Significant Others” in all arenas of your life. Until then, I remain, as always, Your faithful friend and willing servant,

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